At the Movies: “The Hunt”

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Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt – the story of a man wrongly accused of sexual abuse by a confused and emotionally needy young child – has to be one of the most harrowing, most difficult to watch films I have seen. I sat there, in the front row of the Curzon Soho, snatching glances at my watch, willing it all to be over, even as I was glued what was enfolding on the screen.

Vinterberg captures perfectly, it seems to me, the slow-building near-hysteria of a small community’s fears, the inexorable way in which a single accusation can snowball, taking – sometimes – all common sense, all common decency with it. The performances are uniformly excellent, Mads Mikkelsen, in the lead role of the accused nursery school worker, capturing perfectly the anguish and bewilderment of a man struggling maintain his integrity, his relationship with his teenage son, his long-time friends, amongst what he can only see as the wrongful absurdity engulfing him.

Along with Haneke’s Amour, this must be one of my films of the year. Any year.

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3 responses to “At the Movies: “The Hunt”

  1. Patricia Cawte

    Whilst children need to be protected from those who would abuse them, I believe this period in history will be looked on as akin to the persecution of witches in the seventeenth century. Tabloid hysteria means that children miss out on so much- a computer game in a bedroom is no substitute for playing in a stream and making a den.
    ‘The Hunt’ sounds a truely thought provoking film but not one that I think I could bear to watch- you obviously only just managed it!

  2. harvey70plus

    The emphasis in the film is on the central male character, rather than the child – though she and her motivations are dealt with well, I thought. It would have been more difficult to watch – and in a different way – had the abuse actually taken place. But it was the way the film maker carefully and without any overplaying racked up the tension, the sense of foreboding (sp?) almost from the start, that made it, for me, a hard but certainly compelling and rewarding watch.

    As to your first point, I think you’re right – the tabloids especially, but the news media in general, take a delight in this opportunity for prurient moralising.

  3. I think it is worth saying that is not all bleak and horrible, but as you go into the cinema with a fairly good idea of what is about to unfold there is certainly a sense from early on of impending doom. I was also slightly distracted by the procedures followed when there was an allegation of abuse, surely in Denmark a principal of any sort of school would know that they couldn’t have a think over the weekend about what they should do in that scenario.
    But I wouldn’t make the mistake of judging the film based on that, and I am mostly in agreement with your comments. It certainly ranks as one of the most unconventional and compelling Christmas movies of all time,
    I watched it on Sunday, and having gone in wondering why it was called The Hunt, was fixated on the prominence of male camaraderie, the outdoors(in particular the forest), hunting and guns. It is certainly a film that echoes back to Festen, and maybe even Dear Wendy, and I was left wondering what was being said about this inter-generational gun culture. Perhaps I was more attuned to those aspects because of the saturation coverage of a school shooting over the weekend.

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